Local legend is that the building at 83 High Street was once the town jail on Meeting House Green, and was moved to High Street and converted into the house we see today.  However, in 1973 Margaret Welden documented the house for the Ipswich Historical Commission but was unable to find information identifying this house as the jail.

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that Isaac Lord purchased the ancient Richard Kimball house on this lot in 1784. In 1805 his neighbor on the north, Elizabeth Lord, sold him part of her land, adjoining. Although Waters does not indicate the date or nature of construction of this house, it is possible that Isacc Lord purchased the Old Jail, which was constructed in 1771 on Meeting House Green, when it was removed in 1808, and he re-erected the old jail at this location.

The building is indeed quite old. Existing original details include a boxed 10″ summer beam and exposed boxed braces. The gable wall in the each chamber reveals corner braces that were papered over, typical of First Period plank houses (1625-1725). Unusual casement type “L” hinges are used on a feather-edge door. Vertical sheathing in at least one room has a very wide feather edge, found primarily in First Period houses.  Narrow beaded vertical sheathin is in the first floor front hall. The earliest (front) part of the house is asymetrical, with a 14′ wide parlor on the left front side, but only 8’6″ wide on the right. Further examination of the framing and attic would help document the date of construction.

Isaac Lord, son of Nathaniel Lord and Elizabeth Day, was born July 29, 1753 in Ipswich.  He married Sussanna July 27, 1776. Their children were Isaac, born 1777; Joseph, born 1778; Nathaniel, born 1780; Levi, born 1784. Isaac Lord died September 06, 1828 in Ipswich, and Sussanna died April 06, 1841 in Ipswich. The home has been in the extended Lord family since 1771. It was acquired by Rupert Kilgour and his wife Marion Lord in 1973, apparently from Viola Lord,  and was placed on the market in 2017.

83 High Steet, 1978 photo by the Ipswich Historical Commission. from the MACRIS site.

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote about the houses on the east side of High Street at this location, but the exact reference to this house is unclear:

85 High Street, the Phillip and Elizabeth Lord house: “Richard Kimball received a house lot, adjoining Goodman Simons in the original apportionment, and it was recorded in 1637. He may have been the original owner of the two lots, which John conveyed to Richard Kimball in 1696 (12: 114). Certainly Richard Kimball owned the lot next in order, and in his will, probated Dec. 25, 1752, he bequeathed his real estate to his son Richard and daughter Elizabeth, both minors (331:107). Ehzabeth married Philip Lord, and, after his death, she sold one eighth of an acre and part of her house to Jolm Kimball Jr Dec. 25 1806, (186: 147); the same that John Lane Jr. sold to Benjamm Fewkes March 21, 1832 ( 264:87). This house, now owned and occupied by Mr. Nathaniel Burnham, was probably built by Phillip Lord.”

83 High Street (this house): “Richard Kimball sold the original Kimball house with a half acre to Isaac Lord, felt-maker, Feb. 26, 1784 (142: 213). and Elizabeth Lord sold him a small piece. Dec. 5. 1805 (180: 219). Isaac bequeathed his property to his nephew Joseph, whose heirs own the house now standing, but the original house stood on the site of Mr. Thomas H. Lord’s, and was occupied by his widow, when it had fallen into a very ruinous condition.”

79 High Street, the Thomas H. Lord house: “Alexander Knight owned the house lot east of Kimball’s, and after him John Gamage, was in possession. Richard Kimball bought a third of the lot. on the east side, and sold it to his son Richard Feb. 9, 1715-16 (28: 205) ; but Richard 2nd sold it back to Jolm Gamage, may 9, 1721. ) William Gamage, executor of the will of his uncle, John, sold the house and barn and one and one half acres to Jacob Perins Oct. 26, 1753 (104:92). Jacob Perkins sold to Deacon Nathaniel Kimball of the South Church February 17, 1757 (103: 235). It continued in the same family, and was set off to Jonathan, in 1820 (Pro. Rec. 396: 145-148). Deacon John Kimball occcupied the house for many years. The architecture denotes age, and it was probably built a century and a half ago. (The Ipswich Historical Commission estimates the date of construction approximately 1814-1835).”

73 High Street, the Nathaniel Lord house (C 1720): Allen Perley, the original grantee, sold his house and land to Walter Roper, Sept. 3, 1652 (Ips. Deeds 2: 44). John Roper succeeded, then Benjamin Dutch. Dutch sold the northwest half of the homestead, two acres in all, lately of John Roper, to John Brown, 4th, Feb. 3, 1737 (77: 33), and the northeast half to Nathaniel Lord, June 16, 1741 (84: 202). Lydia Thornton, widow, sold half an old house, bequeathed her by her former husband, Mr. John Brown, to Nathaniel Lord, hatter, Jan. 23, 1796


This closeup from the 1832 Ipswich map indicates the house at 83 High Street, owned by a member of the extensive Lord family, probably the house owned by Isaac Lord Jr. at that time. The Widow Jospeh Lord house, no longer standing, has been tentaively identified by a photograph.

The Old Jail

The “Old Gaol” was erected on Meeting House Green in 1771. Thomas Franklin Waters mentioned a plan of the old jail that depicts a two-story building with a gambrel roof. The first two floors were used as the jail and the attic rooms were the House of Correction.  Examination of the attic frame of the house at 83 High Street to find evidence of a arlier gambrel roof would lend support to the claim that it is the Old Jail.

Waters wrote that Rev. David T. Kimball bought the property in 1808 when the jail was found inadequate. Terms of the sale were that the old jail building would be removed.

“The County found the small attic rooms insufficient for the County House and bought the Dummer Jewett property on the south side and erected a new building for prison use in 1790 and 1791. Land on Green street was bought and a new jail built of stone, near the present House of Correction, in 1806, and in 1808, the old Goal site, with its yard was sold to Rev . David Tenney Kimball……the goal reserved to be taken away Jan. 1, 1808 (185: 152).”

83 High Street, Ipswich MA
Photo of the first floor of 83 High Street, from the Coldwell Banker site.
83 High Street, Ipswich MA
The Second floor at 83 High Street has low ceilings that slant at the side.  Examination of the roof framing for evidence of a previous gambrel roof would lend support to the claim that it is the Old Jail. Photo courtesy of Coldwell Banker.

Ipswich jails

The new stone jail on Green Street that replaced this building was a notoriously cruel and controversial place. Sixteen British prisoners were kept hostage there during the War of 1812 and treated so cruelly that they were removed by the District marshal. In 1814 the Federalist-controlled state legislature ordered that all British prisoners of war be released in direct opposition to the mandate by President Madison that they be so imprisoned. A new large jail / insane asylum was built on the Green Street location in 1828 and was torn down in 1933 to build the Green Street High School, which now serves as the Ipswich Town Hall.